What is a student F-1 visa?
A student visa allows foreign nationals to come for the purpose of studying at an academic institution within the U.S. Acceptable institutions include universities, colleges, high schools, private elementary schools, seminaries or other academic institutions.
If you are primarily visiting the U.S. for tourism, and want to take a short, recreational course, you may qualify for a visitor B visa. However, if you plan to study in the U.S. for more than 18 hours per week, you will need a student visa.
Do I qualify for an F-1 visa?
There are specific requirements that all applicants must meet to obtain an F-1 student visa. To qualify, applicants must meet the following:
- has a residence abroad with no intent to abandon their residence
- intends to leave the U.S. after their studies are completed
- can financially cover their tuition and living expenses
How do I apply?
There are several steps that a nonimmigrant applicant must take when planning to study in the U.S. Before even applying, you must be accepted for enrollment at an academic institution registered with SEVIS (Student Exchange Visitor Information System).
Once you are accepted, you must get an I-20A-B form, your certificate of eligibility, from the institution in which you will be studying. Important: You will need your I-20 form every time you leave and re-enter the U.S. If you are abroad, then you need to apply at the U.S. consulate nearest your residence. If you are in the U.S., you will need to file for a change of status with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service.
How long can I stay in the U.S?
When you enter the U.S. on a student visa, you may remain in the U.S. for the duration of your student status. This means that you may remain in the U.S. as long as you are a full-time student, even if the F-1 visa in your passport has expired. However, if you leave the U.S. with an expired visa, you must obtain a new one before re-entering the U.S. to complete your studies.
An F-1 student has a 60-day grace period to depart the U.S. once the program concludes or the student is no longer enrolled in school. Exactly how long you can remain will depend the length of your studies and whether you qualify for Optional Practical Training (employment authorization). It is very important to remain in status while in the U.S. If you are out-of-status and remain in the U.S., this is a violation of U.S. immigration law, and may affect your eligibility to obtain a new visa status in the future.
Can I work while I am a student?
Generally, a student visa permits foreign students to remain in the U.S. for the purpose of obtaining an education in their specific area of study. However, you may be eligible to work for the purpose of receiving training in your field of study. All F-1 students are required to obtain prior authorization from their international student advisor counselor for any kind of paid or unpaid employment, either on or off campus.
There are several limited employment options for students and it is important that your work-study strategy matches your long-term goals and your eligibility in terms of immigration requirements. Our team is happy to assist you in creating a work and study plan that best fits your needs and goals. Contact us if you are considering working while you are an F-1 student.
What if I want to change my status?
In some cases, a person may change their status while in the U.S. by switching to a different visa category. Please Contact us if you are currently a student and would like to learn about other visa options.